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Leadership Succession in a Boy Scout Troop

Jen sent in this question:

 My question has to do with leader succession. The new training module doesn’t really help. A lot of leaders seem reluctant to allow newer parents to step up, in fact in our troop, we have had a lot of potential parent leaders stay away due to the current leadership. The current leadership seems burnt out but stuck on the “way we always do things” which includes not holding the boys accountable for not planning outings very well. Several boys have aged out and their parents in leadership positions, continue to hold onto the positions, despite lack of engagement or attendance. The current CC & spouse is stepping down in a couple months and no one else really wants to step up until they are gone. The rest of the parents are ready to quit the troop altogether. Is this something you have addressed in the past?

Thanks for the question Jen. These types of problems are not unusual.  There is a group of leaders who have been around awhile. They are tired and burnt out, but they have a way of doing things which is comfortable and familiar to them. When new parents come in with new ideas, they might not be welcomed. The older leadership might see it as a lack of confidence in the way they have been running things.

So what can you do to improve the situation?

First of all, when approaching the current leadership about changes, make sure they know that you value them. Usually these are leaders who have put a tremendous number of hours into the program. Their identity might even be strongly tied to the program. So it is important that they know you genuinely value their contribution.  Also, remember there is no requirement that leaders have sons participating in the troop. I have known some wonderful adult leaders whose sons aged out. They stayed because they believe in the value of the program.

Next, make sure any new parents who want to step into leadership roles get the appropriate training first. The online training is OK, but it is only a starting point. I recommend you look into Woodbadge or Scoutmaster training. (Scoutmaster training is also useful for committee members.)   The current leadership will be much more accepting of new leaders if they are willing to invest in the program by taking the time to get in depth training. Roundtables are also a good place to learn more about the training.  Sometimes parents come in thinking they now how the troop should be run, but they don’t understand the program because they haven’t really been immersed in it. A Boy Scout troop is not necessarily run the most efficient way. It is run in a manner to teach youth leadership skills. If adults try to lead but are not well versed in the three aims and the eight methods of Boy Scouting, they they are not going to be able to work with the youth to create an appropriate program.

Third, make sure the Committee is really acting as a committee and not trying to be backseat Scoutmasters. The committee is there to support the youth leaders and the Scoutmaster and assistant Scoutmasters. It is a totally different role than Scoutmaster with different training. If they want to be directly involved in program planning with the youth leaders, the appropriate role is Scoutmaster or Assistant Scoutmaster. I have seen this tension before when the committee wants to make all of the decisions and the then expects the SM and ASMs to just carry out their program.  Committee Chair and Committee Member is not “Scoutmaster Lite” or “leader who doesn’t want to camp.” The role of the committee should be to recruit adult leaders,  to make sure the program is safe and operating within the boundaries set by the BSA and the chartered organization, and to provide the resources and support to carry out the program.

If differences between the parents and the current adult leadership really cannot be worked out by an honest discussion about what is best for the troop, it might be time to look at a different unit.

Readers, what are your thoughts on this situation? Add your comments below.

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